By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
When Chris left for officer candidate school, friends confronted Joanne with their concerns. On the day Chris learned he'd scored high enough to receive an Army commission, he got two letters from Joanne. One was a love letter; the other was a Dear John. Chris went to his bunk and cried, he says. "It was the best and worst day of my life."
They stayed apart 30 days. "I'd dumped him six weeks before the wedding, and he was still telling everyone how much he loved me," Joanne says. "I realized at that point I would never find anyone who loved me as much as Chris."
On May 14, 1983, they got married. The next morning, Chris was commissioned a second lieutenant. They packed his pickup truck and drove to Georgia, spending their honeymoon in motels along the way. Finally they could have sex. No more need to burn.
For the next 10 years the Webbs moved from base to base. During the '80s, they had three children. But motherhood didn't mean matronly. With Chris' insistence, Joanne's skirt hems marched steadily upward, and her tops became more revealing.
Crushed that he wasn't sent to Kuwait during the first Gulf War, Chris became the Army liaison officer for postal and shipping services to the troops. Traveling all over the United States, Chris dropped in at Hooters restaurants, where he gave waitresses pins urging people to write to soldiers. He inadvertently became a traveling cupid, a Johnny Appleseed of love. "I've met three men who came back and married the Hooters waitresses who corresponded with them," he says.
After the war, Chris survived two RIFs (reductions in force), but a married officer with three children costs the Army a fortune. In 1993 Major Chris Webb reluctantly took early retirement, his 10-year Army career over. The Webbs were faced with deciding where to raise their family.
"I had driven through Burleson once," Chris says. Though his mother and several relatives lived in the area, the town seemed a dull backwater. "I've lived in all these beautiful places. I said, 'Thank God I don't have to live here.'"
Then Chris heard a whisper in his heart: "You're going to live in Burleson some day."
Chris told the voice, "Devil, get out of here."
Sex and Salvation
At first, Carol Curlee and others on the hiring committee thought the job applicant seemed straitlaced--long hair, to-the-calf dresses. "She almost looked like a holy roller," says Curlee, who was teaching at a Burleson elementary school. Curlee and the other fifth-grade teachers liked to go out for a drink on Fridays, and they didn't want to work with a prig. "We wanted someone who could laugh and cut up and have a good time."
Joanne needed the job. They'd used Chris' pension to build a house in Burleson. Selling insurance with little success, Chris says, he went to the mailbox every day praying the Army would call him back.
On the first day of school in 1993, the committee hired Joanne and soon discovered she was no prude. "She was wonderful," Curlee says. "She was funny and had a sense of humor. She would take the problems of the children to heart. Joanne was just a sweet person."
Curlee thought Chris was extremely intelligent but such a flirt that she figured he cheated on Joanne. "But as I got to know him, that's just Chris," she says. "He'd say, 'Carol, you look so pretty today.' I'm just a fat old woman."
She envied the Webbs' romance, but Curlee didn't like the way Joanne dressed. The holy-roller dress had long disappeared, replaced by miniskirts. If Curlee mentioned it, Joanne's comeback was always the same: Her husband liked her in short skirts.
Joanne hadn't been proud of her body until she married Chris. Her mother had died when Joanne was 13, and her sense of confidence had floundered. Joanne thought her hips too big and her breasts too flat. "I hated my legs," she says. "I got out of gym and into band so I didn't have to wear shorts that showed my white legs."
But Chris adored every inch of Joanne and made sure she knew it. Short skirts, she says, "make me feel more self-confident. More than anything, my husband likes them. It's one of the basic things he asks me to do."
For her, Chris got contact lenses. He flaunted his diminutive but muscular body in the sizzling Texas summers by wearing boots and a cowboy hat with short cut-offs and sleeveless shirts. Joanne thought he looked hot.
After working for his uncle's construction firm, Chris started his own company and did so well that by 1997, Joanne no longer needed to teach. A year later, Joanne was chosen to be an ambassador for the chamber, where the membership had soared from 451 in 1997 to 1,025 by 2001. She was one of the chamber's best recruiters.
The Webbs' lives revolved around the chamber and Cana Baptist Church. Joanne sang in the choir and chaired an important church committee. Chris taught a popular adult Sunday school class and served on the pastor's three-man accountability team.
And, in his quest to build the self-esteem of the world's women, Chris had continued to flirt. "A kind word can have a powerful effect on people," Chris says. But some Burleson men didn't appreciate his flattering comments to their wives. Chris appeared a little too interested in them. And if some women were offended, others may have seemed a bit too pleased.